Saturday, March 28, 2009

Embracing the snain

Date: March 26 and 27
Mileage: 21.3 and 55.4
March mileage: 255.9
Temperature upon departure: 34

I went to the doctor again Thursday, and am now feeling confident enough in the durability of my toes to start venturing out for some longer days of exercise. The weather, however, didn't have the same ambitions. 34 degrees with intermittent snow and rain ... actually snowing one minute, raining the next, repeat. In Juneau, we call it snain. It's even uglier than its name, and uglier still to try to ride a bike in. Gooey slush erupts from the road in a geyser of moisture that even the best mountain bike fenders can't contain (and I have to use a mountain bike just to plow through the thick slop) Meanwhile, moisture falls in cold streams from the sky. Imagine straddling a cold-water geyser in a downpour. That's what biking in snain feels like. It's impossible to stay dry.

But I've actually figured out a great system for my feet. It only took seven layers (nine including the bandages), but I think I've actually found a way to keep my toes relatively dry (with the exception of trapped sweat, which is closer to damp than the swimming-in-a-slush-pond soaked that my feet usually are after a snain ride): Loose nylon sock to hold sweat somewhat away from the toes, loose vapor barrier sock, huge calf-high wool sock, tights stretched over that, sandle, waterproof overboot, and double-layer rain pants pulled over the top to keep water from seeping in. Dare I say such a setup can keep my feet dry indefinitely? It certainly seems that way after five hours in the slush geyser. Can't say that at all about the rest of my body.

Mostly based on the weather, I had decided to spend the weekend venturing forward in moderation. Riding in snain for anything longer than two hours is miserable, and working out at the gym for anything longer than two hours is miserable. But do both in the same day, and you have a four-hour day that is definitely tolerable. That was my plan. It went well yesterday. I kept my feet dry and I started reading a bad book (why is it that so many bike touring books are nearly unreadable? As in, "I ate this pie, and it was good, and then I rode up this hill, and it was hard." How are all these books getting published? ... said the self-publisher.)

Anyway ... two hours of riding followed by two hours at the gym was the plan today as well. I rode out toward North Douglas but quickly found myself in two to four-inch deep glop. Cars were swerving all over the road and I was having a tough time riding a straight line myself. I turned around to seek out something with a semblance of pavement, and started north toward the Valley. I was riding strong with a tailwind, walking all of the snow-covered bike paths, and actually feeling pretty good. I decided to push on a little longer than two hours, took the long way around Mendenhall Loop, hammered against the pounding headwind, jogged the unrideable bike paths, and had to stop at the Breeze Inn for a Snicker Bar and Gatorade because I was pretty severely bonked and wasn't carrying any food. Then, with sugar coursing through my blood, I decided to tack on another extra 10 miles of slow slush riding out to Thane before finally heading home. And just like that, a planned 20-mile ride became 55. I arrived home at 4 p.m., having left a little after 11 a.m. and telling Geoff I would be back at "1 at the latest."

"I was starting to get worried about you," he said. "I thought you had to be hurt or broken down or something, because there's no way you stayed out that long because you were actually enjoying yourself."

I looked at him, with my polar fleece jacket and rain pants dripping brown water onto the linoleum, waterlogged mittens wadded up in my hands, wet hair clinging to the clammy skin on my neck, socks pretty much comprising the only dry piece of clothing on my body, and I just smiled ... because I had been enjoying myself.